Things to do in Corbett – Jeep Safari, Elephant Ride

by admin on May 30, 2012

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Wild Elephant herd in Corbett National ParkCovering a total expanse of 1388 square kilometres, Corbett Park is probably one of the jewels of Uttarakhand. This was where famed hunter Jim Corbett shot his first leopard in 1884, and soon stopped hunting for sport, targetting only man-eating tigers and leopards. Remorse or early conservationism, I wondered.

Bamboo, mighty sal trees, shrubs and ferns form the basic structure of the forest and its undergrowth. I had already booked in at the Corbett Ramganga Resort, which as the name suggested gave me a pleasant view of the holy Ramganga river. The last tiger count was 160 while the bird count was over 600 different species. Besides, numerous other animals like elephants, leopards, langurs, wild boars, and sloth bears have made it their home. Peacocks, pheasants, cormorants, storks, ducks and falcons are a few of the feathered friends that nestle in the park’s glory. Deadly cobras, vipers, kraits, mugger crocodiles and the fish-eating gharial form the other known inhabitants of this deep enchanted forest. Its height varies from 400 metres to 1400 metres, making it a hot and steamy virgin jungle.

The elephant ride on the buffer zone was thrilling; I saw sloth bears bumbling in the underbrush – extremely dangerous, my mahout told me. I caught a fleeting sight of a leopard blending through the trees. A beautiful sunbird took my breath away. Some other distant birds drifted on the horizon. I focused my binoculars but couldn’t recognize any. A magnificent hornbill met my eye for a moment as the distinct sounds of a woodpecker at work reached my ears. Well, many rivers feed the park, I was told. The main ones are the Ramganga, Sonanadi, Mandal and the Kosi.  Just up was the Sonanadi forest area where I did see a well-fed python – half asleep, perhaps.

The jeep safari was a must-do. There were many choices so I took the biggest one; the Dhikala safari entering through the Dhangarhi gate. There was no jeep but a Canter with 18 seats, filled with lots of eager beaver tourists waiting to get a snapshot of the wild.   Many foreboding sal trees stood everywhere. Marshy, riverine territory was everywhere. Suddenly I struck gold! Somebody whispered, “Tiger!”, I turned and took a picture of this majestic gold and black striped beast ambling pompously down a grass belt. It did freeze my blood for a little while, though. In the pride of the moment, I thought, tales to tell my grandchildren if I ever get any. A wild boar grunted too, as if gauging my thoughts. Big lizards stared menacingly, many eyes glowed from everywhere.Tiger on Hunt

Strangely, many parts of the jungle are always dark, and at night become pitch dark. I was faced with a conundrum; when it’s pitch dark and our eyes cannot even see the hand in front of the nose, how can animals hunt? My mind boggled with theories of infrared vision. Bears and deer have it too? No one to ask, everyone was asleep in the camp where we were staying. It was rather eerie with weird sounds of elephants trumpeting in the distance, mingling with gurgling rivulets and the spasmodic roars of tigers along with grunts, cackles and hisses of unknown animals. As if I was in a different time warp or planet. No honking motorists at least, were my last thoughts, as I dozed off.

The next morning was nice and cool as we set off back. The other tourists were all agog with their own tales of what they saw and heard. I was amused and saddened a bit too. Would I ever see this beautiful untouched landmark of wilderness again?

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